Small table

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Project by KnickKnack posted 03-23-2016 11:20 AM 1146 views 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Many of my projects have really quite long gestation periods – an idea gets kicked around for a while and, if nothing can yet be made of it, it gets shelved until a few months later when a new attempt is made to “projectize” it.
Not so with this – the initial idea was the mortise joint through the classic inverted Art Deco triangle, and this never got shelved.
That’s not to say there weren’t serious issues along the way – I never did manage to come up with a complete drawing that looked right, but I knew there was going to be a gap between table and top, and that I was going to want it floating. As with many things, proportion is key, and, somehow, those drawings never seemed to have “enough” float without being “too chubby”, or “too squat” or “too…”.
So, after a week of this frustration, I decided to just “start with the legs” and see how it went.
Well – that proved problematical – I don’t have much wood, and the choice is oak, beech, ash, and jatobá. It was obvious from minute one that the legs needed to be mirrored, so that required I bootmatch some wood, and then we’re back to the proportion problem – the legs needed sufficient gravitas, but my wood isn’t thick enough for that once it’s cut in half. Of course I could put two bits together, but I couldn’t really find anything with the right sort of pattern on it. Oh, frustration! I kept going backwards and forwards to the wood store with my ruler, trying to make it work, but it just wouldn’t. And then it popped into my head that I could use plywood and, that if I put it the right way, it could be as thick as I liked, whatever size I liked, and, with care, it would come free (well, almost) with bookmatching “V” shapes.
Of course, I have highbrow tendencies, and discounted idea this because “Plywood isn’t high end woodworkering”, and went back into frustration mode.
I have a stash of veneer, but they’re mostly single sheets, and what I have that’s matched isn’t big enough.
OK, so days pass and, in the end, I decide that I’m just going to make it from plywood anyway because my mind just keeps going back to that as being the “right thing here”, and that it will come out “pretty cool”, albeit, possibly, not “high end” but “why do I care?”, and I’m just fighting it.
Work starts by making a multi-layered plywood “block” and sawing it in two on the angle.

I decide that the sides of the legs will just be a little too plain, so I add some veneer there – I’ve always liked the way you can “fade” from veneer to the base wood, and I’m looking for something a little more smooth than my usual “very sharp” edges.

As I said in the beginning, I didn’t really know what was going to happen with the top, and, having got to this point (4 nice looking legs with potential), it seems obvious the top will have to be ply too.
I’ve had a tendency in the past to think that just the “idea” is enough to make something great, whereas, in fact, it really does need to be more than that.

That afternoon this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson crossed my Android as I was about to take my siesta…
”Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.”

So I didn’t just “make the top from ply”, but went back to the drawing board to see if I could come up with something better. I drew a lot of things, some weird and wacky, which I was trying to avoid in this project, some that I couldn’t work out how to do, some that were cool but wouldn’t go with the legs, and eventually settled on what you see – not something I’ve ever done before but I thought something restrained but stylish, something pastel, something almost subtle, might be what was needed.
Of course, I have no veneer of that size, so I had to cut my own strips of wood.
Router came out of the table for the first time in about 4 years, and, after several hours, I’d managed to find the base to reattach.

Now, despite the fact that I pride myself on thinking things through in order to minimize the work, and the risk, I proceeded to cut ALL the slots for the inlay rather than just do one rectangle, inlay, repeat. So there was a lot more work inlaying, and it didn’t come out as well, as it should have done.

I’ve found a scraper to be best for flattening this sort of thing.

It then became clear that a single thickness of ply wasn’t enough, more had to be added, and I digress at this point…

The saying goes that “A bad workman blames his tools”, but seldom does one hear the opposite, so, in Oscar Style, I’d like to give a serious cap doff to the set of Japanese saws I had imported a few months back – I’ve been experimenting with one for a couple of years, but I decided that I was going to use these new guys in earnest on this project, so I drew my 45s, and cut. Frankly I was amazed that I managed to get everything so straight so I just kept going – my strategy is usually “hack and clean up”, but these saws are simply amazing – vertical requires a skill level I sometimes achieve and sometimes don’t, and if you start in the wrong direction then that’s a problem too, but at least it all happens pretty quickly! I cut the legs with them, the angles on the inlay, even most of the mortice holes (before finishing with a router).

Take a bow – Dozuki, Ryoba, and Kataba

End digression.

As usual, it’s challenging to glue these things together…

And then it was all done.
There are some bits I’d do differently if I ever did it again, but I’m actually pretty pleased with what’s come out – I like the design, mostly, and it’s not too shabbily made.

850mm x 550mm x 330mm high.
9mm birch plywood, jatobá inlay, unknown veneer.
Of course, half of the legs is end grain, so it needed quite a lot of finishing – oil and then 8 thin coats of Danish Oil applied with 600 grit wet and dry.

Now I’m resting!

-- "Do not speak – unless it improves on silence." --- "Following the rules and protecting the regulations is binding oneself without rope."

10 comments so far

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1081 posts in 2812 days

#1 posted 03-23-2016 11:27 AM

Nicely done.

I especially appreciate how you dealt with the legs. It shows careful consideration.

High marks!


-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View danoaz's profile


219 posts in 1587 days

#2 posted 03-23-2016 12:21 PM

Well done. You have a good eye for the grain that makes it interesting rather than stagnant. The inlay with the various widths helps as well. Good to see you going beyond. I love those Japanese saws. Take care.

-- "Simplicity and repose are the qualities that measure the true value of any work of art." Frank LLoyd Wright

View R_Stad's profile


367 posts in 1260 days

#3 posted 03-23-2016 12:46 PM

I really like your little table. Your use of plywood is very artistic. The veneer and inlays add to its composition. Thanks for the write up. Your work is always so original. Well done and keep going.

-- Rod - Oregon

View CaptainSkully's profile


1407 posts in 2975 days

#4 posted 03-23-2016 01:20 PM

Great project and post! Love the mix of woodworking and philosophy.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View helluvawreck's profile


22669 posts in 2283 days

#5 posted 03-23-2016 02:26 PM

It’s a very unusual and creative table. Nice work.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View oltexasboy1's profile


240 posts in 1121 days

#6 posted 03-23-2016 04:33 PM

very nice work. If you decide to make another, try using a #79 Stanley plane to true up the grooves for the inlay strips. I did a top similar to this last year and found that the side rabbet plane was a real help in fine tuning the grooves. By the way , you’re right ,a scraper is the absolute best way to true the surface.

-- "The pursuit of perfection often yields excellence"

View DocSavage45's profile


7645 posts in 2259 days

#7 posted 03-23-2016 05:09 PM


Went to a woodworking design seminar w/ Mn Woodworkers Guild. Thomas Hucker did a three day workshop that included his history. I let him know he “cracked my egg!” We laughed. I’d read about his progression in woodworking in the book “Furniture with Soul” and I’d been perplexed. just after seeing the most spectacular buffet I’d ever seen I turned the page to find a REALLY CONTEMORARY PIECE, for which he is now known.

I came away from his seminar with a changed thinking about furniture, materials and design. A lot to sort out.

One thing seriously changed is my respect for plywood. It is wood and it enables us to do things we cannot do with wood as we were traditionally taught.

It needs our respect as a working material that allows us to interact with nature’s materials.

For me “It ain’t “low brow” anymore.

Keep evolving and thanks for sharing.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

9324 posts in 3469 days

#8 posted 03-23-2016 06:02 PM

You’re still thinking Out of The Box!

Very COOL work, design, technique, etc.

Thank you!

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View majuvla's profile (online now)


8664 posts in 2284 days

#9 posted 03-23-2016 06:37 PM

Beautiful legs shape. Top inlay geometry is realy good also.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View Roger's profile


19706 posts in 2221 days

#10 posted 03-26-2016 11:53 AM

An amazing amount of fine work.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

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